Commenting on the threat to prosecute CIA interrogators and Bush Administration officials for “torture,” Marty Peretz of the New Republic says “I Don’t Lose Sleep Over Terrorists Being Walled.” Peretz thinks there are too “many Democrats who want to keep George Bush alive indefinitely, and one of the ways of doing this is by flaying members of his administration.” Politically, he believes “this will be a disaster for Obama who has got to be seen as trying to capture the future, not sustaining the past.”
Peretz is particularly alarmed by what he calls a mind-boggling story by Craig Whitlock in this past Wednesday’s Washington Post. The story is on various European prosecutors and their intentions to pursue “Bush Officials Over Prisoner Treatment.” Here’s Peretz:
He [Whitlock] quotes one official at the United Nations (where matters of justice and injustice are dealt with so punctiliously) thrilled at his expectation that “torture is an international crime irrespective of the place where it is committed…This will be something that will be haunting C.I.A. officials, or Justice Department officials, or the vice president, for the rest of their lives.” Whitlock also quotes another U.N. official who investigates torture crimes—an Austrian lawyer, no less—arguing that Washington ought to pay financial compensation to “torture victims,” including Al Qaeda leaders who were water-boarded. How about that, Senator Levin?
But Peretz missed an even bigger “mind-boggling” claim by that UN official, who happens to be someone named Manfred Nowak. Not only does Nowak suggest that the U.S. pay financial compensation to “torture victims,” he suggests that if President Obama were to keep his promise not to prosecute CIA officials—and one supposes Cheney, Rice, Justice Department lawyers, et al.,—for “torture” then the Obama administration can be prosecuted by foreign lawyers for violating international law, specifically the U.N. Convention Against Torture. Here’s the complete quote from the article:
Manfred Nowak, another senior U.N. official who investigates torture accusations, said the Obama administration is violating terms of the U.N. Convention Against Torture by effectively granting amnesty to CIA interrogators. He said the United States, as a signatory to the treaty, is legally obligated to investigate suspected cases of torture. He also said Washington must provide compensation to torture victims, including al-Qaeda leaders who were waterboarded.
“One cannot buy the argument anymore that this does not amount to torture,” he said. “These memos are nothing but an attempt to circumvent the absolute prohibition on torture.”
Just in case you need this translated, Nowak is saying that CIA interrogators are war criminals. From this we can reasonably conclude he is also claiming that those who ordered them to conduct the interrogations are also war criminals (e.g., Bush, Cheney, Rice, and who knows how many Justice Department lawyers). But most shockingly, he explicitly claims that if the Obama administration refuses to prosecute CIA interrogators (and by logical extension those who ordered such interrogations) then they are complicit in their war crimes. More particularly they are guilty of violating the U.N. Convention Against Torture.
How about that, President Obama?